Improving the Image of Marketing

Back in June, I attended Hubspot’s Executive Playbook to Inbound Marketing & Sales and it was an interesting morning of sessions that was kicked off by Jessica Meher, the company’s head of enterprise. She pointed out that marketers have a huge image problem. She shared research that indicated 75% of CEOs do not think marketing generates revenue or sales opportunities for their businesses. A Gallup poll that asked consumers to evaluate the honesty and ethics of different professions revealed that advertising practitioners rank below lawyers and stockbrokers (and just above members of congress and car salespeople).

Why People Hate Marketing

The way we live has changed, including the hours/where we work, our use of the internet, how we learn about products, the buying process and more. Marketers need to adapt. People have many more demands on their time. On top of that, digital video recorders, caller ID, spam filters and other technology make it difficult to get the attention of buyers. Customers are in control and 70% of the buying process happens before consumers engage with sales (Revenue Disruption by Phil Fernandez). No one wakes up and says I want to see an ad. But marketers wake up and say “Let’s make an ad”.

As a result, we need to change the way we market. The old marketing playbook is broken and cold calling, email blasts, traditional advertising and direct mail aren’t as effective anymore. There are 221 million people on the national do not call registry, 44% of direct mail is never opened, 91% have unsubscribed from opt-in marketing emails and 86% skip television ads. The world has changed so we have to evolve.

MagnetWe are still marketing to people like it is the 1970s. Kevin Daum writes: “We marketers have to take responsibility. We inundate the public with print and electronic media, screaming at them to Buy! Buy! Buy! We have created a general malaise of marketing fatigue.”

There are three reasons most people hate marketers and opportunities to change our approach.

  1. Lack of empathy. Don’t just assume everyone wants or needs what you have to offer and target everyone the same way. Use online tools like HubSpot and FanBridge to help narrow the pitch and reach those targets that can benefit from your products and services.
  2. Lack of authenticity. Some marketers have to represent bad products or substandard services. It happens. But you can still push to improve the offerings so you have something worth promoting.
  3. Proliferation of boredom and mediocrity. Time is the most valuable commodity for people but we usurp it with useless or dull information. Instead, we can take every opportunity to intrigue and entertain so, even if our targeting is off, we create positive impressions with our brand.

Why CEOs Hate Marketing

There are numerous definitions of marketing from marcomm to analytics to strategic marketing and everybody has a different view of its purpose. The most damaging impact of this state of affairs is that marketing is failing to get a seat at the board room table, meaning that insights and business intelligence inherent to the marketing discipline are not being integrated. This is costing hundreds of millions in lost revenue, equity value and higher spending, as noted by ProMotion. The core problem is that marketing often speaks the language of the process and not the language of business strategy and results.

What marketers need to do is:

  • Speak the language of business, not the language of marketing—it’s a subtle but important difference.
  • Measure what matters, not what is easy to measure—determine how customers are created and connect programs to influence touch points along the way.
  • Admit uncertainty, not all marketing is science and there is guesswork from time to time—have plans to adjust to surprises.
  • Understand financials, not just the need to spend money—speak to the financial implications of decisions in order to balance the influence of CFOs and the inclination of companies to become cost- rather than results-focused.

Why Marketers Hate Marketing

There are two big reasons why there is some self-loathing going on today, according to Cassie Nolan:

1)      It feels shady. We can use certain words, deliver a message in a specific way and display content that produces the action we want. That seems wrong on some level and manipulative.

2)      It feels unnatural. Most of us want to be honest and helpful without screaming to get attention for ourselves. Marketing runs counter to this tendency.

The reality is you do have to capture attention and let people know your company and products but it doesn’t have go against your conscience. That is the beauty of inbound marketing. Instead of pushing your message on people, you pull them in with valuable content such as blog posts, how-to guides, checklists and more. Prospects come to you as a resource. Then they begin to trust you and eventually purchase. In other words, if you give people the information and guidance they seek, the selling takes care of itself and everybody wins!

Inbound Marketing

Not convinced yet? Consider this: inbound leads cost two thirds less than those generated from outbound tactics and social media has a 100% higher lead-to-close rate than outbound marketing. Here are three tips for making inbound marketing work for you.

  • Think about content like a media company

Content attracts people to your business. Building assets is different from traditional marketing, where you are essentially renting something from somebody versus owning it. For example, if you use Google AdWords or other paid media, as soon as you stop paying, the traffic goes away. This is a long-term change in strategy and equity must be built over time with blogs, interactive tools, photos and infographics, videos and podcasts, presentations and eBooks. It’s about creating content people want, not about your business.

The content is the foundation for your communications strategy. You can use it to power social media, emails, website content and so on. But instead of thinking about how to reach people on a channel, you should think about what the consumers want first then adapt the content to the channel.

Ultimately, we should not interrupt what people want to consume. We should strive to become what they want to consume.

  • Respect the context

Context is personal to every visitor and shows the status of the relationship you have with them. When you visit Amazon, you get personalized recommendations of what you might like to buy based on your history. Websites need to recognize existing relationships and provide content in context.

Personalized Amazon Site

All it takes is the slightest bit of personalization to show you know visitors (e.g., age, industry, position in funnel, etc.). Ironically, there are major companies spending millions on TV ads rather than the comparably small price to recognize returning visitors to their website!

  • Market at every touch point

Have you mapped out every interaction with your customers and prospects online and offline (e.g., email signatures, printed invoices, recorded phone messages, etc.)? There are probably several places you can enhance the branding, engage and even entertain. Groupon used their unsubscribe page to enable visitors to “Punish Derrick.” He is “the guy who thought you would enjoy receiving the daily Groupon email.” This amusing feature is unlikely to make many people change their minds about unsubscribing but it neutralizes any annoyance, reinforces the brand’s personality and might even produce a few smiles.

Punish Derrick Groupon

Affinity Express does the same thing with our 404 error page.

404 Error Page Affinity Express

Today, content is an instrumental part of any marketer’s inbound strategy. It builds brand awareness and establishes you as a thought leader. It also plays a prominent role in SEO rankings to enable you to be found for a variety of key terms related to your industry. Best of all, it is a genuine, transparent way to provide value that drives revenue and customer loyalty. Who knows, before long marketers might improve the perception of our honesty and ethics so we can join nurses, pharmacists and doctors at the top of the scale!

Do you have any favorite campaigns or examples of marketing that make you proud to be in the profession?

About Kelly Glass
Kelly has been vice president of Marketing at Affinity Express for nine years now. She drives company strategy and all marketing activities.

4 Responses to Improving the Image of Marketing

  1. I love you guys….GREAT STUFF!!

  2. Cassie says:

    Great article, Kelly. I hadn’t considered the CEO standpoint–very interesting. Thank you for the mention!

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